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NWFA event ‘strikes a cord’

Volume 27/Number 23; March 17/24, 2014

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 10.48.07 AMMichael Martin, president and CEO of the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), said that after years of recession and worries, it’s OK to have fun again.

This idea is one major aim of the 2014 NWFA Wood Flooring Expo, scheduled for April 16-19 at the Music City Center in Nashville, Tenn.

“Business doesn’t have to be depressing,” Martin said. “People learn a lot more when they are having a good time.”

Exhibitor attendance at the NWFA Wood Flooring Expo has been on the upswing of late—30% higher in 2012 and up 20% in 2013. As of early March, the 2014 show was running 10% ahead of the 2013 pace. Of the 215 companies registered, 52 are new exhibitors.

“Based on feedback from our members, we look at the pieces that can be enhanced to make the next year’s show even better,” Martin explained. “We keep trying to create a new experience.”

This year’s theme is “Strike A Cord,” an ode to Nashville. “‘Strike A Cord’ reflects making a difference, making connections, and making the industry better,” Martin said. “‘Cord’ is a play on words for ‘chord,’ tying our industry into the music theme, an invitation to strike a chord of harmony in Music City, and to strike a cord of opportunity within our industry.”

In-depth education

Education has long been a pillar of NWFA shows, and to continue that trend this year’s breakout sessions have all been expanded from 45 minutes to one hour. The change is based on feedback from attendees who wanted more time to cover the topics presented. “The bottom line was that they wanted more, so we’re delivering that,” Martin said. “We’ll continue to present four learning tracks: management, marketing, technical and AIA/IDCEC CEUs [for architects’ and designers’ continuing education requirements]. We’re also adding a new three-hour Wood Flooring University that will offer a deep dive into topics relating to specific business types. These will include a certification component, a contractor session and a distributor/manufacturer session.”

In addition to expanded education sessions, the NWFA has extended trade show hours (noon to 6 p.m. on April 17, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 18). “As our show has grown over the past two years, our attendees indicated they did not have enough time to walk the entire floor in two days, so we are giving them more time to do that as well,” Martin noted.

Attendees will also be able to tour an engineered flooring mill, which is offered as part of the AIA/IDCEC continuing education component. Participants will take a guided tour to observe the manufacturing process for engineered wood flooring.

The NWFA expo is the one trade show that caters exclusively to wood flooring, and, as such, Martin said the event delivers a targeted audience of wood flooring buyers and users across a large and diverse international audience. “You will have the opportunity to meet with potential buyers and [be exposed to] entirely new markets at this show,” he said. “It is also a great opportunity to expand your distribution network, and to potentially have designers and architects exposed to your products as well.”

The 2014 NWFA Wood Flooring Expo coincides with generally improving market condition for hardwood players. “We are hearing from our members that orders are up for manufacturers, sales are up for distributors, and business is up for contractors,” Martin said. “This is certainly good news after the past few years, so all indications are that our recovery as an industry will continue.”

The latest trends in hardwood—darker colors, wider planks and species with character, including distressed looks—will be on display. Martin said the NWFA continues to see growth in the prefinished market as well as an increase in demand for domestic U.S. woods in other areas of the world. “The signs show slow, steady growth for 2014.”

Adding to the fun

Robin Crow, a former RCA recording artist and current owner and founder of Dark Horse Recording, which boasts Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill among its artists, will be the keynote speaker. Crow is known for his motivational speeches, which he makes while playing guitar.

Pam Tillis, a Grammy and Country Music Association (CMA) award winner, will be the concert performer following the awards dinner on April 18.

Martin said attendees will have opportunities to win prizes during the show, as well as a chance to win a VIP trip for two to the 2014 CMA Awards in Nashville. This prize, valued at nearly $10,000, includes airfare, hotel stay and admittance to the pre-awards party, awards ceremony and post-awards party.